The NHS and social care services are in a state of crisis. The Conservatives have left them chronically under-funded, while need continues to grow and patient care suffers. Social care is facing a funding blackhole of £2 billion this year alone and more than a million older people are missing out on the care that they need.
People are routinely left stranded in hospital after they finish their treatment because the follow up care and support they need is not available. Nearly two-thirds of NHS Trusts ended the last financial year in deficit.
Yet Labour and Conservative politicians refuse to be honest with the public about the scale of the crisis or the tough decisions which are needed to protect these vital services.
Liberal Democrats recognise that Britain’s health and social care services are our most treasured national institutions. Any party seeking to lead the country after this election should be prepared to take bold action to safeguard them. This isn’t about doing the easiest thing, it is about doing what is right and what is essential.
Liberal Democrats will take five key steps in order to put our health and social care system back on a sustainable financial footing:
- An immediate 1p rise on the basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax to raise £6 billion additional revenue which would be ringfenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services.
- Direct this additional investment to the following priority areas in the health and care system: social care, primary care (and other out-of-hospital care), mental health and public health. This represents the most efficient and effective way of spending these extra resources – ensuring they will have the greatest impact on the quality of care patients receive.
- In the longer term and as a replacement for the 1p Income Tax rise, commission the development of a dedicated Health and Care Tax on the basis of wide consultation, possibly based on a reform of National Insurance contributions, which will bring together spending on both services into a collective budget and sets out transparently, on people’s payslips, what we spend on them.
- Establish a cross-party health and social care convention, bringing together stakeholders from all political parties, patients groups, the public, and professionals from within the health and social care system to carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce, and the practicalities of greater integration. We would invite the devolved administrations to be a part of this work.
- Introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring agency for health and care, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This would report every three years on how much money the system needs to deliver safe and sustainable treatment and care, and how much is needed to meet the costs of projected increases in demand and any new initiatives – to ensure any changes in services are properly costed and affordable.
Our longer-term objective will be to bring together NHS and social care into one seamless service – pooling budgets in every area by 2020 and developing integrated care organisations.